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WDAY: The News Leader

Published December 29, 2013, 09:24 AM

Scooter crash victim thanks Bismarck nurse

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — At first sight, the only thing that indicates John Wanecke was involved in a serious crash on his scooter is a still-healing sore on his forehead. He credits a Bismarck nurse who stopped to help him for the fact that he is able to walk around and talk about what happened to him.

By: JENNY MICHAEL, The Bismarck Tribune, WDAY

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — At first sight, the only thing that indicates John Wanecke was involved in a serious crash on his scooter is a still-healing sore on his forehead. He credits a Bismarck nurse who stopped to help him for the fact that he is able to walk around and talk about what happened to him.

Wanecke drove his scooter down University Drive toward Bismarck a little after 6 a.m. Oct. 27, coming home from a night shift serving food to students at the University of Mary. He had his lights on and was going approximately 25 mph in the right lane, near the shoulder of the road "just like I had in the past," he told The Bismarck Tribune.

He remembers seeing a bright light and a bumper in his rear-view mirror somewhere between United Tribes Technical College and the Bismarck Airport. After the point of impact, Wanecke doesn't remember much before he woke up in the center turn lane, about 200 feet from his scooter.

Whomever struck Wanecke was driving a 2008 to 2010 Ford Super Duty pickup. The driver left the scene after the collision. North Dakota Highway Patrol Captain Kyle Kirchmeier said the case remains open, and the driver of the pickup has not been identified.

Wanecke thinks he tried to get up and call 911 after regaining consciousness and before passing out again.

"And then, all the sudden, this ... angel showed up," he said.

Mandy Schauer was on her way to Sanford Health, where she is a nurse in the intensive care unit. She thought there was a deer in the road, until she saw a hand waving at her. She turned and parked in front of Wanecke, blocking other cars from striking him.

"If I hadn't been paying attention, I easily could have hit him, or somebody else could have," she said.

Schauer called 911 and brought a T-shirt to hold to Wanecke's scalp, which was bleeding profusely. She waited with him until a North Dakota Highway Patrol trooper and an ambulance showed up.

"She's a nurse," Wanecke said. "She knew what to do."

Schauer wasn't necessarily prepared for her role in the event. She had only a pair of latex gloves and a CPR mask in her car. It was dark and she didn't have a flashlight, so she tried to use her phone to see the extent of Wanecke's injuries. After the incident, she put a first aid kit in her car in case something like that ever happens again.

Wanecke kept wanting to get up and get off the road, Schauer said. She had to persuade him to stay still and wait for the Bismarck Fire Department and Metro Ambulance to arrive.

Wanecke doesn't know what might have happened had Schauer not stopped to help him. He ended up needing two units of blood, so had he lain there longer, bleeding to death was a possibility. Someone else could have struck him. Or, had she not kept him from moving, he may have ended up paralyzed, as he had a broken vertebrae. Any number of things could have happened to compound his problems.

"I could possibly owe her my life," Wanecke said.

He ended up needing 28 stitches on his head. All of the bones around his right eye were broken, but they didn't move and are healing on their own. All of the ribs on the left side of his body were broken, but those, too, have healed. He had a contusion covering his abdomen. Doctors at St. Alexius Medical Center had to put titanium rods in his back and fuse his vertebrae.

Wanecke is healing ahead of schedule. He's already back to work and is expected to make a full recovery by February. He has no brain injuries, no vision problems and no injuries that should be long-lasting for him.

"God could have taken me just like that, so I must have some more things to do around here," he said.

Wanecke gave up riding a motorcycle several decades ago, and now the scooter will join its place as a vehicle he won't use. He plans to sell what is left of his for parts.

The experience gave Schauer a new respect for first responders. And she hopes that if she's ever in a situation like Wanecke, someone will stop for her.

"If that was my family member or me, I would want them to stop," she said. "If you see someone who needs help, help them."

Kirchmeier said anyone with information about the crash or the pickup that struck Wanecke should contact the Highway Patrol's district office in Bismarck.

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